Before It’s Too Late
You know you should exercise more often. You used to. But you’re too tired most nights to head to the gym and you’re too sleepy when your wake up to slip into your running shoes.
But, some mornings you’re able to slide out of bed and do a few crunches and tell yourself it’s better than nothing. It still doesn’t feel like much. Then there’s the occasional evening when you muster up enough energy to press out 20 push-ups. You remember the days when push-ups were your warm up.
Teaching happened. The most exhausting, rewarding and painstakingly difficult thing you have ever experienced is consuming more of You than you could have ever imagined.
Yes, the moments of joy you experience are incredible. And they happen quite often. Which keeps you coming back.
But for how long?
How many nights can you stay up designing lessons that don’t quite hit the mark?
When do you get to offer the same grace to your children as you do your students? As hard as you try, you find yourself displaying more patience with someone else’s child than your own. And when you recognize this, it hurts. And when you don’t?
Where in the job description did it say that you should feel completely consumed when you pull in the driveway each day. So much so that you tell your son, whose been waiting with basketball in hand, that you need to rest just a bit. Decompress, if you will.
And why, even though you weren’t the one that smacked the child in the back, do you feel guilty?
Because it was under your watch and you had to call the parent and apologize and explain.
And you had to call the other parent and …
That’s often a whole nother story.
You know this is the profession you chose.
You don’t complain.
You’re not complaining.
You keep these thoughts locked up. Which only makes it worse.
You’re tired and you can’t believe it has it’s has reached the point where a set of crunches or a few push-ups is your work out. But it is. They are.
Of course, you know busy educators that are able to run, lift, swim, bike, whatever. But that’s not you. In fact, when you see what others are able to accomplish it makes you feel even worse. It shouldn’t, but it does.
You finish your meager set of push-ups and sit there. In the dark. Head down. Holding your legs. A grown adult in the fetal position. Thinking about the day to come or the day that was. It has to get better. It must get better. It will get better.
Or will it?
And by us, I mean assistant principals, principals, supervisors, superintendents, board members, the community.
We must. Before it’s too late.
You have given—are giving—too much. And I see the results all across the country. More teachers are stressed than ever before. More teachers are leaving the profession than ever before. More teachers are unhappy than ever before. Something must be done and it is up to us, those not in the classroom, to lead the change.
Looking away is not an option.
Hoping things will just get better, is not an option.
At this point, you may be saying Why the doom and gloom Jon? Your words are not making me feel better. In fact, they are making me feel worse.
That’s what I intended.
I want us to start taking the social and emotional health of our teachers more seriously. As seriously as we take pretty much everything else in education. We spend more time on curriculum than we do on teachers’ well-being. Who do we think is going to be implementing this curriculum? We can’t spend an entire summer rewriting units and creating assessments and craftng improvement plans, only to then turn around and spend half a day on teachers’ mental health.
Maybe I am overreacting.
Maybe things aren’t as bad as they appear.
Maybe it’s me.
Or maybe, just maybe, it’s time we start really thinking about how to best meet the needs of the people on the front line.
Because 20 push ups and a few crunches in the dark aren’t gonna cut it. They’re just not.
* Below is just a small sampling of resources aimed at providing social and emotional support for teachers. They’re diverse but I believe there is something for everyone. Please add your own recommendations in the comments sections below. Let’s get serious about this.
Fewer Things, Better by Angela Watson
Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators by Elena Aguilar
Sanctuaries: Self-Care Secrets for Stressed-Out Teachers by Dan Tricarico
WorkLife hosted by Adam Grant
The Daily Stoic hosted by Ryan Holiday
Teachers’ Aid hosted by Mandy Froehlich and Jon Harper